A Hundred Year War: Still Searching for a Cure for the Diabetes Epidemic

When Drs. Banting, Best, Collip and MacLeod discovered insulin in Toronto in the summer of 1921, they saved the lives of millions of people around the world. I doubt they could have really imagined how their discovery would benefit those of us who rely on insulin to live. I also doubt they could have imagined how 100 years later diabetes would be an even greater problem.

One in three Canadians now lives with prediabetes or diabetes, and the prevalence of the disease has doubled in the past 20 years. The disease is the leading cause of heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney disease and amputation, and kills tens of thousands of Canadians prematurely each year. It will cost Canada’s health care system $29 billion to treat this year, and Canada is in the worst third of developed countries for both prevalence and cost. Something must change.

Part of the reason why Canada compares so poorly to other developed nations is that we have not implemented a nation-wide strategy to address the problem. That’s why Diabetes Canada’s sole request during this federal election is that all parties commit to implementing a new national “Diabetes 360˚” strategy. Diabetes 360° includes specific recommendations, based on evidence and extensive consultation, in the areas of prevention, screening, treatment and patient outcomes for diabetes. It includes a continuing priority on funding research and innovation in diabetes. It suggests a plan that could save millions of cases of diabetes and its complications and billions of health care dollars within less than seven years.

With federal government support, implementation of Diabetes 360˚ could begin in time for 2021 – allowing Canada to truly celebrate the 100th anniversary and the legacy of the Canadian discovery of insulin.


Diabetes Canada is a Sponsor of Research Canada’s Your Candidates, Your Health 2019 Federal Election Campaign. To learn more, visit yourcandidatesyourhealth.ca.